The Bright Pattern: A Take on Elemental Patterns

A popular concept early on was the notion of mapping the Patterns to the four classical elements, with the question of “what became of the Fire Pattern?” Below is Cort Odekirk’s take on the topic, reprinted with his permission.

The Patterns of Four

In looking at the reflections of the Primal Pattern we see some interesting correlations. We know of three reflected patterns, the underground pattern at the heart of Kolvier which we will call the K-Pattern, the reversed Pattern reflected in the underwater city of Rebma which we shall call the R-Pattern and the misty and mysterious Pattern of the city Tir-na Nogth which we shall call the T-Pattern. When the circumstances surrounding these reflected Patterns are examined we see that they seem to represent three of the four classic elemental virtues. The K-Pattern represents Earth, being buried in Kolvier’s heart; the R-Pattern represents Water and the lofty T-Pattern appears nightly in the realm of Air.

This leaves us short one Pattern. Given the balance loving nature of the Amber Universe, we should have a Pattern representing Fire as well. We have heard no mention of such a Pattern, and during Brands attempt to attune himself to the Jewel of Judgement in the Corwin Chronicles surely the existence of such a Pattern would have been noted. So we must assume that this Pattern is either destroyed, or has been hidden away some time ago, so long ago and/or so thoroughly that the Elder Amberites did not even consider contact with it a possibility, or possibly even know of it. The former option provides little in the way of dramatic intrigue, so for the purposes of this essay we will assume the latter.

Before we can hypothesize on what may have destroyed the Fire or B (Bright) – Pattern we must come up with a theory on what it may have been like and what features and abilities it may have represented. Any venture in this arena is – of course – complete conceptualization. The ten Amber chronicles provide us with no clues, we have only a hinted at absence from which to gain information.

It is likely our missing Pattern would be of a more ethereal nature, much like the T-Pattern. The loss of a more stable and inhabited Pattern such as the R or K-Pattern would have created much more of a stir, an obvious hole in history would have been better chronicled. So we have a difficult to access pattern, probably appearing only at certain times like the T-Pattern, fitting well with the flame motif. To look for location we have one obvious possibility, also working well within the balance oriented Amber Universe. Tir-na Nogth is controlled by the Moon, it seems only appropriate that our B-Pattern would be controlled by the Sun.

So when would it appear and how would one access it. The obvious choices would be at Dawn and Dusk, when the rising or setting sun creates a brilliant pathway across the water. On Shadow Earth poets have written on how this line of reflection can appear as a pathway to the Sun, in Amber, perhaps that pathway was a reality, leading to a golden copy of Amber which appeared before the Sun. The city would be accessible at Dawn and Dusk and would exist during the day, a point of brilliance lost in the glare of the sun, but would dissolve in the night, dropping the aspirant into the ocean far off shore should they miss the pathway.

And what of the City itself, what sort of world would the Bright Pattern create? The possibilities are endless and we are given few, if any, clues. Perhaps it was a land of fierce tempers and burnished warriors, filled with arrogance from their positions on high. Or perhaps it was a land of strict truth, in opposition to its counter in Tir-na Nogth, a city where all illusion was instantly revealed and people were seen not as they would normally appear, but as they truly were. To some extent the point is moot, whatever the Bright Pattern may have been, it is no longer. At some point some catastrophe happened and the Pattern and all it controlled was removed from the playing board. Again, we have no evidence of what this tragedy may have been, only hints we can piece together not from what is mentioned in the Chronicles, but from what is not.

The Fall of the Bright Pattern

It is safe to assume that whatever resulted in the loss of the Bright Pattern was an event of some significance, if only to ensure a certain dramatic continuity to the Amber Universe. This being the case, the incident in all likelihood involved one of the Amberites. Conceivably Chaos involvement was possible, but since at that point Amber and Chaos seem to have been pretty much keeping to their own corners of the universe, it seems unlikely.

If we assume that the fall of the B-Pattern involved one of the Amberites, we must now figure out which one or ones. For reasons already stated, it is safe to assume whatever happened happened early on in things, pretty much limiting it to Dworkin, Oberon, Cymnea and probably the first few children. The Corwin Chronicles tell us that these consist of Benedict, Osric and Finndo, with Benedict being the eldest. All of these are present at some point in the Corwin Chronicles, with the exception of Osric and Finndo, and it is this exception and the somewhat flimsy “It became necessary they die for the Good of Amber” excuse as to their disappearance that gives us a possible explanation.

Let us suppose, for a moment, that one of these elders took a particular interest in the Bright Pattern. Say he studied it, and the science of Pattern Mastery, as Benedict studied Warfare and Strategy. It is possible that this intense study created a link between the reflected Pattern and its initiate, not at the level of Dworkin’s link with the Primal Pattern, but a pale reflection of it. Now the two younger sons of Amber are sent off to war, likely knowing full well what their fate is to be, and experiencing death on the battlefield as directed by Oberon, all for the “Glory of Amber”. But what if that was not the end of things. If one of the brothers, for the sake of argument we shall say Osric, was bonded to the Bright Pattern he may have attempted to use it, and the power of his death curse, to sustain his life force. If he was at least to some extent successful, he would pull himself partially back into the world of the living. Unfortunately, all things balance and the Bright Pattern would be pulled halfway into the realm of the dead.

The effects would be spectacular at the very least, one of the great elemental Reflections of the Primal Pattern reft from the universe, warped into an undead mockery of its former glory.  From the Amber universe it would seem to disappear, amid, one assumes, a rather colorful display. Oberon would have been symbolically slapped, a dramatic touché from a problem though solved. It would not be surprising if he were to suppress all knowledge of the event, creating some natural explanation and, very pointedly, proclaiming the matter closed. One assumes they even investigated but the Bright Pattern was discovered to be gone, pulled beyond the universe and presumably though lost and eventually forgotten.

Osric would be in a city of his own creation, a Pattern for the Dead, drawing its life from the Primal Pattern but rent from it. Created in the heat of passion and anger, and ruled by a man forever captured between life and death. It would be a dark place, filled with dark things and possibly casting dark Shadows. The incident would be reflected throughout Shadow, giving rise to rumors of dark universes of the dead, Hells, appropriately enough ruled by Fire.

The former Pattern of Fire would be a pale shadow of its former self, nearly cut off from its power source in the Primal Pattern. This would be reflected in all the things inhabiting the universe(s) it controls, a yearning need for the power of the Pattern. It is not inconceivable that ways would eventually be found to return to the living universe, releasing creatures into Shadow. The image of the warped Bright Pattern, now a dark design, imprinted on them allowing them to drain the little bit of Pattern power all things in Shadow contain.

And of Osric, trapped for the eons between life and death, lord of brilliant fire trapped forever in shadow? Would he cower in his tattered kingdom, accept his fate and leave the world of life to its own devices? Seems unlikely for a scion of Oberon; but that, of course, will be for you to decide.

Published by bolthy

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales." He is the author of the young adult superhero book, Kensei and its sequel, The Love of Danger. In his copious spare time he is the co-editor of Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with a herd of cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel. Contact Jeremy at

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